Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christ Came Down" poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- and a High School Poetry Critique and Analysis Essay

“Christ Came Down” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Note on the poet: Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born on 24 March 1919, in Yonkers, NY, the youngest of five sons of Charles S. (an auctioneer) and Clemence. His father, an Italian immigrant, had shortened the family name upon arrival in America. Lawrence restored the family name in 1954. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was a commanding officer during the Normandy invasion in World War II. Known for his novels, short stories, plays, screenplays and poetry, Ferlinghetti won numerous awards for his writing, and there is a street in San Francisco named in his honor.

CHRIST climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings

Critique and Analysis of “Christ Came Down”
By Virginia Quarrier for a 1979 High School English Assignment

The underlying theme of Ferlinghetti’s “Christ Came Down” is that the modern Christmas is too secular for Christ, and that he disdains it. Each verse delves into what Christmas has become with Santa Claus, artificial Christmas trees, plastic crèches (nativity scenes), plastic Bible salesmen, Bing Crosby carolers and Radio City angels. Christmas has become a commercial season instead of the worship of a newborn savior. In fact, the first official Christmas was only a substitute for Saturnalia, only now it had a Christian name because Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the state religion. People still lived it up and got soused.

The day that Christ was born was much different from even that. He was born n a smelly old stable. The magi brought him gold, incense, and myrrh. Christ is calling believers today to bring their gold (symbolizing their lives), their incense (symbolizing Christ revealing himself through us), and myrrh (a balm symbolizing that we are to be a healing ointment to the broken people of the world).

In each verse, Ferlinghetti says that: “Christ climbed down from his bare tree this year and ran away (or softly stole away)…” The Bible clearly shows that Christ does not run away from the problems of the world. He faced our sins on the cross, and surely he can face a commercial Christmas. It must break his heart, though. Instead of running away, he calls believers to spread the good news of what Christmas really is – and that’s not just a good spirit, helping each other, and giving. Christ calls his believers to worship him and focus on him, and not to take so much thought about material gifts, but to concentrate on the greatest gift: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The cross is inseparable from the manger.

In the last verse, Ferlinghetti says, “Christ climbed down from His bare tree this year and softly sole away into some anonymous Mary’s womb again…” Again, I disagree. Christ did not steal softly away. He rose in glory, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in glory. He is awaiting the time appointed for him to come again and take up his believers. Signs show that this time is coming soon.

Ferlinghetti goes on to say: “where in the darkest night of everybody’s anonymous soul…” Christ does not await his coming in everybody’s anonymous soul, but only in those who have asked him into their hearts as told in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him…” And if the believer is obeying the Word of God, his soul will not be anonymous. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” commands Matthew 28:19. “For we are ambassadors for Christ…” declares 2 Corinthians 5:20. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to everyone that believeth…” announces Romans 1:16.

I do agree with Ferlinghetti when he says that Christ’s second coming will be “the very craziest of second comings.” How many people come again through the clouds with trumpets, clothed in glory? Who else comes so unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night”?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bible Note Page using Read, Reflect & Respond Approach

Dear friends,

After a little twiddling with PDF uploads...

This is a Bible study note page that uses the Read, Reflect & Respond approach. I designed it based on one that someone gave me when I was in high school. I use it for my own devotional times. Sometimes it takes a few days to complete a passage of several verses, but it is worth the effort. On the back, I like to write out extra cross reference verses.

The file is PDF format. If you click on "More" and then save it as a file on your computer, then you can open it in full size and print it. If you try to print it without doing it, it will attempt to do it in Portrait layout rather than the necessary Landscape format.

Feel free to pass it along.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Grace and peace,

Read Reflect and Respond Bible Note Page

Recommended Reading Lists for Teens and Parents

from the outline of
"Read, Reflect & Respond" by Virginia Knowles

You can click on many of the titles to see the books listed at Christian Book Distributors. On this web site, you can click links to view the table of contents and sample chapters.


(by Mary, Julia, Rachel, Joanna, and Lydia Knowles)

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy– immediate top pick of 3 of the girls! It’s a historical adventure of the French Revolution

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – racism and law in the south – a high school classic!

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – ironic correspondence between two demons who are strategizing on how to deceive and distract Christians – get the Progeny Press study guide

  • The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom – true story of a Christian family hiding Jews in the holocaust at great personal cost – watch the DVD after you read the book!

  • Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth – true stories of a family with 12 kids (there may be some things unsuitable for younger readers – I can’t remember)

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry -- futuristic novel usually assigned for younger students but all of my girls listed it AND it addresses some issues that I think are more suitable for high school anyway

  • If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim – true story of one Christian woman’s persecution in Korea

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – classic Brit lit, get the Progeny Press study guide

  • The House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris – Christian historical fiction series of 50 books covering one family line from Mayflower to modern times, lighter reading

  • Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton – for mature readers, set in pre-apartheid South Africa, contains violence and some sexual references, also moves slowly. That said, it is an excellent, poetic, thought-provoking, classic book about a godly black pastor and his wayward son. This book made a huge difference in raising public awareness and bringing an end to apartheid. Watch movie!



BRIGHTLIGHT BOOKS is a great local place to buy or sell (for cash or double store credit) used home school curriculum, literature, and Christian books. Address: 1099 SR 436 in Casselberry Phone: 407-622-6657.

Three on-line Christian curriculum resources that have terrific selection and prices!





♥ “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

♥ “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” Mark Twain

♥ “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

Monday, July 27, 2009

Read, Reflect & Respond

These are part of the class notes for Virginia's session on high school literature:

Read, Reflect & Respond
(The Real 3R’s of High School Literature) &

Read, Reflect & Respond

  • Life has a purpose! Reading has a purpose! Down with ignorance and apathy!
  • Reflective reading feeds the spirit and inspires our souls. Readers become leaders!
  • Reading, reflecting and responding helps us learn to think more deeply and relate to others more wisely without being easily deceived. We will be prepared to meet life challenges and having something to say.
  • Reflecting and responding increases long-term retention of information, beyond the test.
    Our response often includes practical application and action to transform our lives and culture.
  • Reading improves comprehension, logical thinking, creativity, writing skills, grammar, spelling, etc.
  • The reading, reflecting and responding stages overlap and can be simultaneous.
  • Research the Charlotte Mason method of education for more inspiration.
  • Use the RR&R techniques for art, music, movies, nature study, sermons, and life experiences.

Mom Tip: You need this as much as your teens do! Are you feeding your mind and your spirit so you can keep up with the many overwhelming demands of life? Are you going deep or just trying to get through the surface stuff? Take time to read, reflect, and respond -- and set the example for your teenagers!


  • Choose carefully! Books can make a deep and lasting impression, so avoid exposure to much “twaddle” that dulls or pollutes the mind. Reading for amusement and relaxation is fine, but be careful. Be especially wary of Chick Lit (even Christian romances) and anything with occult or “dark” spiritual themes.
  • Make Scripture your priority! “The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” McCosh
  • Create a literature-rich environment with a well-stocked home library.
    Kinds of reading: academic, pleasure or personal interest, skills, devotional, etc.
    Formats: books, newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs, books on CD or DVD
    Genres: Scripture, realistic modern fiction, historical fiction, fairy tale, sci-fi, romance, mystery, poetry, song lyrics, plays, art, biography, history, science, how to, self-improvement, essays, etc.
  • A variety of genres enhances and balances. When studying a historical period, read novels, biographies, key documents, and poetry. Listen to music and speeches. Watch a movie or documentary.
  • Help your teens select books or do it for them.
    Selecting good books takes a little research and a lot of discernment.
    Check high school book lists and ask for recommendations from people you trust.
    Click on “inside the book” at or to read a chapter.
    Do a web search on the author’s name or the book’s title to see what others say about it.
    Share your favorites with your teens! Introduce a book like a friend.
    Don’t be afraid to supplement with books at middle school or even elementary reading level. This can help a teen understand the basic information to better decode a harder book on the same subject.
  • Evaluate reading choices by pre-screening from front to back.
    Is it wholesome, age-appropriate, and highly recommended?
    Is it accurate and fair, without being too simplistic or overly biased?
    Is it interesting, well written, and thought provoking? What is quality of the illustrations, if any?
    Is the author reliable? (Your teens may want to read his/her other books later.)
    Is this the right book for right now? Is it worth the time it will take to read, reflect and respond?
  • Encourage pre-reading preparation. Before reading, encourage your teen to browse quickly, ask questions and make predictions. Preview any study guide questions before you read.
  • Give plenty of time to read, in a quiet and comfortable setting.
  • Read with pencil and paper handy!
  • Read with (or to) your teen once in a while!

Mom Tip: What books are you reading now? What do you want to read soon? Write a list! Since your teens will soon be adults, you can share what you are reading with them or assign it to them to read.


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon

Study questions should require critical thinking, not just factual recall. More advanced questions will require a synthesis (combining) of information from different parts of the book. Go beyond the questions in a text book!


  • What kind of book is this and why am I reading it right now?
  • What is the significance of the title or cover art?
  • What is the author’s life background and worldview? What did he or she want to communicate? What is the author’s tone in this book (upbeat, harsh, relaxed, urgently persuasive, funny, reverent, etc.)?
  • When and where was the book written, and under what life circumstances, such as war?

Character, Setting, Plot & Style:

  • What universal themes, such as courage, pride, justice, greed, honesty, or jealousy, are woven into this book? Which one is most prevalent? What can I learn that is applicable to my own life?
  • What perspective can I gain about these themes from this time period, culture, and worldview?
  • Which character reminds me most of myself? What would I have done if I were that character?
  • Which characters are dynamic (developing & maturing) or static (unchanging)? How do main characters learn/grow from events in the story? How do their values, fears, motives, or conflicts change?
  • Are the characters believable? What flaws do the “heroes” exhibit? What virtues do the “villains” exhibit? Real people exhibit a mix of positive and negative behaviors and attitudes. Books for teen readers should show the realistic nuances of authentic human behavior and attitudes.
  • How would the story be different if written from a different character’s perspective or in another setting?
  • Do the characters speak in the same manner as I do? Are any special accents, idioms or dialects used?
  • What are the main events in this story? How does the plot rise, fall and twist? Do this a chapter at a time, and then for the whole book at the end.
  • How is cause-and-effect used in this story, especially in consequences for actions?
    What symbolism is used? What does it mean? Is the symbolism effective, understandable & significant?
  • What other Biblical, literary or historical references are made in this book?
  • Are there any words that I don’t fully understand and need to look up in a dictionary?
    How does sensory detail (what I vicariously see, hear, smell, taste, and feel) put me “on the scene”?
  • Does this book use flashbacks or drop hints about what might happen in the future?
    Can I follow the clues and make predictions? Is the outcome too predictable or contrived?
  • Does the outcome give a sense of closure, or is it unsettling or confusing?


  • How does this information fit in with what I already know (or think I know)?
  • Humility is needed! We don’t know everything about the topic just because we’ve read a book or two.
  • Is what I am reading essentially true or in agreement with Scripture? (Obviously, no other book is perfect!)
  • Does this information contain logical fallacies or propaganda? Does it represent opinions as being hard facts?
  • Does this reading challenge my assumptions or stretch my perspective? Is this good or not?
  • What should I accept or reject from it? What do I need to fully absorb or apply?
  • Is this book what I expected? Did it answer any burning questions for me?

Aids in the reflection phase:

  • References: Bible, dictionary, encyclopedia, map, timeline, history/science text, commentaries, Google
  • Published study guides (Progeny or Total Language Plus) or parent-written study questions
  • Personal conversations, interviews with experts, discussion groups, literature classes, on-line forums
  • Journal to take notes, ask questions, and make comments as you read. I like a notebook or composition book.
  • Field trip related to story: art or history museum, zoo, bird sanctuary, horse riding, ethnic restaurant

Mom Tip: Are you truly thinking about what you are reading or putting your brain on auto-pilot? Does your reading motivate and inspire you? Does it make you draw in your breath or furrow your brow?


Communication Responses (Oral, Written & Artistic)

  • TOP TIP! START A READING JOURNAL! Copy key quotes into your journal, along with your reflective comments and questions. I highly recommend using a regular 3-ring notebook as a reading journal, especially if you are saving it with your academic records. You can also keep a chronological notebook journal with your diary entries, correspondence, quiet time notes, sermon notes, etc. Create a lifetime treasure!
  • Talk about it! This could be as you read or after you finish. You can do this as a parent and teen, as a whole family, or as a discussion group. Give a short “book talk” to introduce it to a friend or a group.
  • Read it aloud to someone, with expression, different character voices and sound effects.
    Recite or write a passage from memory. This is especially good for poetry, Scripture, and famous speeches.
  • Do an informal oral or written narration, telling it back in your own words.
  • Prepare a short formal presentation to teach to your siblings or friends using a poster or Powerpoint.
  • Copy poetry, Scripture or quotes in your best handwriting, illustrate it, and give it as a gift.
  • Summarize the main events or points either in a paragraph or a list.
  • Write a complete, unbiased pro/con list about an issue as if you are investigating a potential decision.
  • Rebut an argument or stage a full debate on an issue.
  • Do a character analysis or compare & contrast characters or events within the story.
    Write a journal entry for one of the characters telling an event or feelings from his/her perspective.
  • Write a short fable with a moral. Or, if you are reading a Bible passage, write a short story about it.
  • Pick a book that you think one of the characters might enjoy and tell why.
  • Give the story a different ending and/or write a sequel to the story.
  • Compare and contrast a theme in this book with the same one in another book.
  • Write an essay about the themes as they relate to Scripture.
  • Write a book review and design a book jacket.
  • Write a blog post or a personal letter to a friend about it. Include digital art or your own pictures.
  • Write an imaginary letter to a story character to share your advice or express admiration.
    Write a letter to the author with your comments.
  • Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine about how the issues in it relate to current events.
  • Give a speech about the themes in it.
  • Attempt to emulate the style of writing by writing a similar story or essay.
  • Write a poem, song, or creative story about the key themes.
  • Turn the story into a play. You can produce it, film it, and then edit it using Windows Moviemaker.
  • Write questions and answers for a trivia game (like Jeopardy) or design a board game.
  • Draw a picture, diagram, map, or illustrated timeline.
  • Make a 3D sculpture, diorama, mobile, or collage.
  • Make a costume that one of the characters may have worn.

Mom Tip: Practice your own speaking and writing skills! Start responding to what you read and then sharing it with your family and your friends. This is also an effective way to share your faith. What kind of person are you becoming in response to your reading? Start a reading journal today!

Application Responses

Decide on appropriate action in response to character’s example or author’s persuasion – then do it!

  • Reach out to someone who is lonely or give help to someone who is needy.
  • Make your voice heard about an important cause.
  • Ask forgiveness of someone you have offended or forgive someone who has offended you.
  • Break a bad habit and start new wholesome ones to replace it.
  • Work harder at doing what you already know to attain a personal goal.
  • Learn a new skill mentioned in the book, such as cooking, sewing, wood carving, nature collecting, camping. Find project instructions in library books or on Google.

“Committing a great truth to memory is admirable; committing it to life is wisdom.” William Ward

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Finish Well... Finished Well!

Meredith, Cheryl and I felt so privileged to present the Finish Well workshops yesterday! We didn't know how many people would show up, so we were so blessed when about 40 ladies arrived. Each of us treasures the opporunity to mentor other mothers through the journey of home educating their children. We will try to post our workshop notes, PowerPoints, and/or videos soon, as well as other resources that will help you along the way. Check back!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Praying for Our Teens -- Not Just a Workshop!

Dear friends,

"Praying for Our Teens" is not just a workshop title, it's something we mothers need to do every day!

I know that very few of you -- if any! -- will actually come to that session, and that's just fine with me. The real thrust of it is that I'm going to be there to pray for you, and so I know God will show up, too! If you want to request intercessory prayer for your teens, feel free to write it down and hand it to me at lunch. I'll be delighted to pray for you whether or not you come in the room for the prayer workshop.

When Cheryl asked me a few weeks ago if I would consider doing a second workshop session, I told her that I didn't think so since she and Meredith already have great ones during that time, but I would see what God laid on my heart. I prayed about it, that is what came to mind, and my husband Thad confirmed it when I mentioned it to him. When I brought it up to Meredith, she asked if Cheryl had already told me that they wanted to have a prayer room open during the day! Well no, but I have to say that so often "praying minds think alike" because we are trying to listen to the Lord's leading!

As the three of us prepare for Finish Well, our heart is for God to pour out his grace on your families, and that is not going to happen just by us telling you what we know about home schooling. We all need God's divine anointing! Let's all humble ourselves and ask for the guidance and strength to honor him in all we do. Please intercede for us, too, as we get ready for Saturday!
I will have handouts to give to anyone who wants them on Saturday. You can also find my tentative version on my web site at

Praying God's most abundant blessings on you and yours,

Virginia Knowles, for Cheryl and Meredith

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Three R’s of High School Literature: Read, Reflect and Respond by Virginia Knowles

"Read, Reflect, and Respond" is a simple yet powerful approach to making the most out of high school literature, whether it is novels, biographies, or non-fiction. Learn how to go beyond mere regurgitation of factoids to life-changing application. Why do we read what we read? How can we train ourselves to think through the plot lines, issues, and worldviews? Then what do we do with what we've learned? Don't let your reading go in one eye and out the other. Read. Reflect. Respond.

This workshop will be offered during Session 1 at 10 AM.

Praying for Our Teens by Virginia Knowles

Home schooling through high school is not something we can successfully do in our own strength and wisdom. We need God's help! Raising teens for Christ in our "culture of compromise" requires spiritual warfare and divine guidance. During this session, Virginia will briefly encourage moms in how to pray for their teens according to the Scriptures. Then we will put this into immediate practice by interceding specifically for each others' families. Come be refreshed and strengthened in your spiritual foundation for home education and life.

This workshop will be presented during Session 2 at 11:15 AM.